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American ParishesRemaking Local Catholicism$
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Gary J. Adler Jr., Tricia C. Bruce, and Brian Starks

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780823284351

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823284351.001.0001

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Liturgy as Identity Work in Predominantly African American Parishes

Liturgy as Identity Work in Predominantly African American Parishes

(p.132) 6 Liturgy as Identity Work in Predominantly African American Parishes
American Parishes

Tia Noelle Pratt

Fordham University Press

The experiences of African American Catholics are grossly underrepresented in the sociological literature on both race and religion. This is due, in part, to the perception that being both Black and Catholic is a disparate identity. This chapter asserts that while the approximately three million Black Catholics in the U.S. are indeed a minority, their historically rich past and dynamic present make them an integral part of both American Catholicism and the African American religious experience. This chapter explores how Black Catholics in predominantly African American parishes use liturgy to actively combine their dual heritages in forming a distinct Black Catholic identity. Participant observation research identified three distinct styles of liturgy—Traditionalist, Spirited, and Gospel—that highlight the diversity of religious expression among African American Catholics while also heeding the mandate of the Black Bishops of the U.S. to be “authentically Black” and “truly Catholic.”

Keywords:   African Americans, Black Catholics, liturgy, parish culture, race

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